Group fills official posts

The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly elected its officers for next year.

Elizabeth Cook

With the semester winding down, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly on Wednesday started filling executive positions for next year.

GAPSA President-Elect Kristen Denzer, a double master’s student in advocacy and political leadership and liberal studies, beat her opponent Santiago Merea by 100 votes, or 56.31 percent of the 586 students who casted ballots.

For the 2007ñ2008 academic year, she said she’ll increase GAPSA events and have more networking opportunities.

“I want to create a stronger sense of community,” she said.

As a member of the Central Corridor Community Advisory Committee, she said she’ll make sure students’ voices are heard in decisions surrounding the proposed light rail.

She also wants to work on retention rates within GAPSA and decrease the high turnover rates.

Seven other executive positions were filled by a forum vote Wednesday night.

The vice president for administrative affairs will be Mark Torma, a first-year law student.

Getting student concerns to the Board of Regents and University administration is his top goal.

Specifically, he said he wants the University to make priorities out of national graduate and professional students’ concerns, like health care and higher education.

Mufaddal Baxamusa, a fourth-year finance student, is next year’s vice president for finance.

He would like GAPSA to have more recognition in order to make it a better academic and social experience for students.

The vice president for public affairs will be Matt Schmit, a fourth-year public health and public policy student.

In order to get more involved in politics, he wants to create an easy-to-use resource for students to track legislative affairs.

Other goals include getting graduate and professional students’ voices heard by increasing voter turnout and getting involved with community decisions.

Kristina Erstad is next year’s vice president for programming.

The third-year master of social work student wants to increase the turnout for GAPSA events.

In order to make the events better and more relevant for students, she said she plans on getting more feedback from members through surveys and focus groups.

“I think it’ll be really fun,” she said. “This is our way to reach all the other professional and graduate students.”

Aside from event planning, she said, she wants to increase GAPSA presence at the family housing communities.

Zeeshan Syedain, a third-year Institute of Technology student will be next year’s vice president for grants.

“I feel there are a lot of graduate and professional student issues that are not addressed,” he said.

He said he wants to increase the effectiveness of the grant program and use it to make other aspects of GAPSA popular.

Bree Richards, a third-year law student, will be the vice president for student affairs.

One of her goals is to hold students in University senate positions more accountable for their attendance, she said.

She said she also wants to create a liaison position between GAPSA and the faculty senate.

Other goals include adding governance and public affairs content to the organization’s Web site and creating a central location for historical GAPSA documents in case the server ever crashes.

She’d also like to create an international student career fair for next fall.

Executive vice president for next year is Kevin Wendt, a first-year computer science student.

He said he already knows how the University works and brings four years of Minnesota Student Association experience to this new student government role.